Member News: Virtual Psychologist Supporting Mental Health During Covid-19

Virtual Psychologist founder, Dervla Loughnane knew that it was time to take a different approach to mental health counselling after attending the home of a young man in her role as a senior psychologist for the government.

“Upon arriving, we sadly discovered that he had committed suicide earlier that day. What really caught my eye in this deeply saddening experience was his mobile phone lying beside him. I then thought ‘if only he had reached out to someone with a text message’.” Dervla shared.

“Sometimes, picking up the phone and talking is hard for someone going through such challenges, but even though most people won’t talk, almost everyone will, at the very least, communicate over text. I went home that very day and quit my job and started Virtual Psychologist. It wasn’t rocket science. Something had to be done to prevent this from happening to others.”

That was 3 years ago.  The impact that the Virtual Psychologist has had on the lives of Australian’s since then has been astounding, particularly in remote and regional areas that have been suffering the effects of drought, bushfires and now COVID lockdowns.

While a number of crisis lines now have a text option, Virtual Psychologist provides full counselling sessions and ongoing care to patients via text message.  They follow the same stringent patient care standards as a physical psychology practice and work to progressively improve a patient’s mental state – making this a true alternative to traditional face to face appointments.

Virtual Psychologist also derives important data through its intelligent case lodging and booking systems that enable the organisation to analyse never before explored correlations and progressions of mental illness symptoms, behaviours and triggers.

With contracts with the Federal Government, multiple corporates and strong support from AWS and Optus through the Future Makers program, Virtual Psychologist was already on a high growth trajectory, but with the impact of COVID-19, demand for their services has skyrocketed.

For young people that spend the majority of their time communicating via text based platforms, the service provides a familiar connection method during times of distress.  Most interesting has been the uptake of the service for rural and remote communities, where they are reaching sectors of the community that were previously going unsupported, with 69% of people that have accessed the service saying that they would NEVER have reached out for help if they hadn’t had the option to use text based counselling.

The Gold Coast Innovation Hub is proud to support the #mentalhealthwarriors at Virtual Psychologist and we look forward to sharing more of their growth journey over the coming months.  Learn more at Virtualpsychologist.com.au